What I Learned From Watching the New Tesco Advert [May 2020]
Racial bias against halal advertising has taught me more than expected
Advertisements are usually forgettable from brands we aren’t familiar with. That is why when we see a new advert from a reputable, mass, brand we give them more attention even if it’s subconsciously. They have a bigger budget, they can cast celebrities, we have a (strong) view of their company etc. This is why so many new companies struggle to receive traction from this spotlight and consequently struggle however good their ad is.
I saw the new Tesco advert with this ‘I’m paying attention more to you’ mindset. It’s three brothers of Muslim ethnicity preparing an Iftar meal — the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan. They are attempting a meal during lockdown that their aunty would usually make.
I was pleasantly surprised. I saw how progressive it was and how it characterised the three men’s personalities in a manner that was refreshing. They were happy to advertise realistic slang that some younger adults in our society use; ‘you know’, ‘init’, ‘bro’. I hate to say it but I use these once in a while.
I also had another feeling — unnerve — from the perceived imminent backlash. Being aware of the society that I live in it was clear to me the racially aggravated reaction that would emerge. That’s why this advert appealed to me, it was risky. Going into this advert they must have been aware of this happening yet in order to push for racial equality they didn’t flinch. Some Muslims have sarcastically applauded Tesco knowing that a backlash would be imminent. I understand the fear but fear of representation is worse.
Solely the appearance of Muslim men being given a light to show that they are not all bad people angers some. Need I say anymore. It doesn’t compute with them and therefore they will not consider it as factual. They would do the same with any other ethnic minority.
Now for the fact that they are using halal meat to make ‘Not Quite’ Aunty’s Sumac Chicken brings about another debate. A debate that racists will latch on to in disguise of their hatred of Muslims (and likely other ethnic minorities who have an undefined similar complexion that they shoehorn in as well!). That is because this is an issue of discussion that can be separated from race.
Concluding to the expected outcome…
Hoards of disgruntled shoppers took to Twitter to proclaim they would ‘boycott’ the supermarket for daring to advertise halal meat.
Ok. Racists put aside (them sly f**kers who say, “I’m not being racist but…”). Let’s look at what halal meat is and why people would want to legitimately boycott eating it.
What is halal?
Halal is an Arabic word that translates to permissible or lawful, which adheres to Islam, as defined in the Koran (the Islamic sacred book).
In terms of meat?
For a meat to be certified halal there are certain guidelines that are followed:
- Allah’s (God’s) name must be pronounced during slaughter.
- The instrument must be very sharp to ensure humane slaughter. The animal must be slit at the throat.
- The animal must not be unconscious
- The animal must be hung upside down and allowed to bleed dry. Eating blood is not halal.
- These steps must be accomplished by a Muslim or the People of the Book (Christian or Jew.) Many observant Muslims find kosher meat acceptable.
- The animal must have been fed a natural diet that did not contain animal by-products.
The third point is why people are against halal certified meat. The animal, albeit slaughtered humanely, cannot be unconscious.
Tesco stated on 10 May 2020 via Twitter:
Branded meat is stunned before slaughter. Some of it will be processed to Halal standards, meaning it receives a blessing before slaughter.
Thus Tesco are not following the guidelines of halal certification. In fact all supermarkets selling halal products say they stun all animals before they are slaughtered.
I would say that this is an issue in itself but no one I’m aware of has taken umbrage to this.
So that is what all the fuss was about.
Finally, let’s go into detail now the Tesco issue has been resolved.
In the UK, 58 percent of Halal meat comes from animals which have been stunned before slaughter and certified Halal.
[All animals slaughtered under the Shechita (for Kosher) are non-stunned.]
Given this figure it appears that Muslims don’t fully object to one of the rituals of certification not taking place. Halal consumers aren’t told whether an animal has been stunned before being slaughtered (along with the method of slaughter).
Nevertheless (of UK halal meat) 48 percent or estimated 94 million animals were slaughtered without pre-stunning in 2018. According to animal welfare bodies all animals should be treated humanely at the time of killing and therefore be stunned prior to slaughter.
This is a process that I was not previously aware of. Like so many others, I knew on the basis that halal was blessed meat which was permissible for Muslims to eat but that was it. I didn’t think the slaughter of the animal was any different or consider any religious imparting. For the latter I admit I was willingly ignorant. I chose not to uncover the religious dialogue that would take place during slaughter. I could have enquired about this. However the slaughter itself, no one told me about that part.
When I have been with a group of friends and one asked another (a Muslim) what halal (meat) was, the answer was meat that is religiously blessed. It’s correct and I know from experience that this solely is what many Muslims say to friends and enquirers. Who’s going to go into detail over the slaughtering of the animal? Therefore we often take only that as the difference. The rest is for us to research.
Knowing what I know now, I feel put off eating halal meat that I don’t know the slaughter method of. Yes I know, I’m on my high horse for not discontinuing meat altogether. And only from a daring advert that represented racial equality did I find this out.